1992 LA uprising: Exhibition highlights solidarity between Korean and Black communities

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A new art exhibition commemorates the 30th anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles uprising, highlighting the solidarity between the Korean and Black communities.

Korean drums, hip-hop and Korean opera known as "Pansori" set the stage on opening night of "The Phoenix Project: Continuing the Dialogue from 1992."

"Sixty influential African American and Korean-American artists were invited to participate in this exhibition," said Korean Cultural Center Los Angeles (KCCLA) curator Tammy Cho. The exhibition embodies the power of art to heal and foster communication.

Lili Bernard's painting, "Her Granddaughter, Her Son," incorporates Korean and African symbolism, and honors two young lives lost three decades ago, including Latasha Harlins, who was killed by a Korean store owner in 1991.

"Eddie Song Lee on April 30, the second day of the riots was killed by Korean fire when he went into Koreatown trying to defend the stores that were being looted and burned," said Bernard, founder of Black Artists in Los Angeles (BAILA) and co-curator of the exhibition.

Bernard's son Elias Ferguson and their family friend Julie were in the center honoring the two victims, flanked by Harlins' grandmother and Lee's mother. Bernard described a deep emotional impact while painting their faces, reflecting on how they were killed. She hopes the painting mirrors the theme of the exhibition: healing and unity of the two communities.

"The large pink flowers are ceiba flowers, which are indigenous to Africa and Cuba, where I was born," said Bernard, who incorporated the Rose of Sharon, also known as Mugunghwa, South Korea's national flower. "They believe that it hails from heaven, and it represents the everlasting life."

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Chungmee Lee, an artist and co-curator, created a butterfly-themed piece as a symbol of hope.

"The image conveys the relationships connected through the laws of nature. I created this piece to emit a hopeful message through the title 'Land of Hope,' " said Lee.

The project was one year in the making, culminating on opening night.

"More than 400 people came and it was very emotional," said Cho.

Ferguson performed alongside Yunwoon Seo, president of the Pansori Association in the U.S. "It means a lot too, in context with LA and the relationship between Black and Korean people," said Ferguson.

"Although we have experienced similar pain and so our hearts have ached for one another, I thought that it would be nice to overcome this pain together," said Seo.

The exhibition, which runs through May 20 at KCCLA, features 60 works of art, including a mosaic made up of 30 paintings.
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